24. October 2013

ZANU-PF at war with itself

Weekend elections to choose members to lead the party’s 10 provincial executives have escalated infighting within ZANU-PF as factions plotting in hidden corners to succeed President Robert Mugabe in the event that he retires from active politics go for broke.
The Financial Gazette can reveal that the party’s leadership finds itself in exactly the same situation it was about 16 months ago, when ZANU-PF plunged into crisis ahead of District Coordinating Committee (DCC) elections as factions resorted to every trick in the book to manipulate processes leading to the polls as well as their outcomes.
To avert an implosion ahead of crucial polls that were meant to terminate the life of the inclusive government, the party’s supreme decision-making organ in between congresses, the Politburo, took the unprecedented step of disbanding the DCCs, which used to provide the link between the grassroots and the party’s provincial leadership.
But the same issues which led to the dissolution of the DCCs are resurfacing; this time at the provincial level, which acts as both the sounding board and catalyst for decisions.
Once again, the internecine infighting playing out in the provinces has all the hallmarks of President Mugabe’s succession politics in the sense that those eyeing to succeed him are burning the midnight oil to ensure that they have their loyalists in strategic positions in the incoming provincial executives.
Provincial executives, elected after every three years, are influential when it comes to the selection of delegates who attend congress, held after every five years.
It is at congress where ZANU-PF elects the President and first secretary, two vice presidents and second secretaries as well as members of the Central Committee.
Ahead of congress, each provincial executive nominates candidates for top party positions, with those selected by the majority of the provinces getting the endorsement of the elective congress.
As such, the provincial structure has become the battleground on which President Mugabe’s succession would be won or lost.
At 89, and turning 90 in February, there is speculation that President Mugabe might not seek re-election.
At one point, President Mugabe had encouraged his followers to openly discuss his succession but changed his mind after the debate turned ugly, thereby worsening the divisions in ZANU-PF.
Since then, debating his succession in public has become an erstwhile hot potato hence such discourse is now occurring in hidden places for fear of reprisals. But now and again, the succession conundrum has reared its ugly head whenever the party conducts its internal polls. But unlike in June 2012 when the Politburo dissolved DCCs, provincial executives cannot be disbanded without paralysing the party.
ZANU-PF insiders said the incumbent was concerned about allegations of vote buying and attempts to impose candidates for the provincial executives among other shenanigans that have reached his office ahead of the election on Saturday.
There are also questions around the level of preparedness to conduct the elections countrywide inside one day in a manner that would pass the legitimacy test.
Indications are that while the party’s commissariat would have preferred more time to prepare for elections that would pass the credibility test they have since buckled under pressure from some party heavyweights who thrive on chaos.
During the party’s primary elections in July, confusion reigned supreme. Amid the chaos, nearly all party heavyweights sailed through to the main elections, leaving most of the ambitious young Turks who had hoped for the gradual renewal of ZANU-PF seething with anger.
Nonetheless, ZANU-PF was still able to whip its members into line to support the “winning” candidates and ensure the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) led by Morgan Tsvangirai stood no chance at all at the July 31 polls.
With an MDC-T threat now out of the question, ZANU-PF now appears to be at war with itself as witnessed by the infighting characterising the provincial elections.
This week, ZANU-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo dismissed claims that the provincial chairperson polls had opened the window to deciding the succession in the party.
“Let’s not delve into that. It’s not true; the people make decisions at congress. It’s the people who decide as delegates,” he said.
However, the State media quoted a ZANU-PF Central Committee member last week saying: “Some elements in the party have resorted to the use of money and dirty tricks to sponsor or front candidates in pursuit of positions for their own sake or in preparation for so-called succession agendas.” In Masvingo, retired brigadier general Killian Gwanetsa and retired major general Gibson Mashingaidze are jostling for the ZANU-PF chairmanship.
There are serious manoeuvres to oust the incumbent, Lovemore Matuke, who fell out of favour with the party’s top leadership after signing nomination papers for expelled Bikita West legislator and former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe employee, Munyaradzi Kereke.
Matuke and the party’s provincial secretary, Edmund Tsungai Mhere, are set to be hauled before a disciplinary hearing over their involvement in the Kereke case.
Mashingaidze confirmed that he is interested in the post, which he said he has wanted ‘since 1980’’.
“Of course, I am interested. In fact, as the most senior war veteran in Masvingo, I should have been the Masvingo ZANU-PF chair in 1980 soon after independence. I deserve the post,” he said.
Gwanetsa could not rule out contesting for the post in the event that his name is put forward.
“If the people choose me, I will take up the post. If the people speak, then I will obey them,” said Gwanetsa, who is the Chiredzi South Member of Parliament.
In Manicaland and Mashonaland East John Mvundura and Ray Kaukonde are likely to retain the chairmanship unopposed.
In Mashonaland West, four people — outgoing provincial chairman John Mafa, Phillip Chiyangwa, Nimrod Chiminya and Hurungwe West lawmaker Temba Mliswa — are eyeing the top post.
In Mashonaland Central, the incumbent Dickson Mafios is expected to be challenged by one Mushore.
In Midlands, the party’s chairperson Jaison Machaya is expected to be challenged by Larry Mavima, the chairperson of the Midlands Development Association.
This week, political analyst Rashweat Mukundu, said the impending polls have a bearing on the party’s succession.
“ZANU-PF succession battle will be played out at the provincial elections as it is these leaders who will marshal supporters to support one leader against the other at the elective congress, which might happen soon and for various reasons,” said Mukundu.
“Those aspiring to take over from (President) Mugabe are aware of the importance of the party structures and the need to have them on one’s side; without these structures succeeding (President) Mugabe will be a hard task and (President) Mugabe cannot on his own completely dismiss the wishes of these structures to anoint a successor single-handedly.” (Financial Gazette, Harare)

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